Latest Issue of Science News


News

Visible echoes reprise 19th century spectacle

Light from long-ago stellar eruption holds clues to its cause

Scientists are closer to understanding an enormous two-decade-long eruption that transformed one of the galaxy’s most massive stars into a fireball millions of times brighter than the sun.

From 1838 to 1858, astronomers watched the binary giant star Eta Carinae erupt, shedding more than 10 solar masses of material and producing an oddly shaped, double-lobed cloud 7,500 light years from Earth. Scientists have thought a dense stellar wind fueled Eta Carinae’s outburst, and considered it the prototype for “supernova impostors,” or shorter-lived eruptions that don’t quite destroy a star.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

X
This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.